'You become a Hyderabadi as soon as you come to Hyderabad’

At an Irani tea joint in Lakdi ka Pul in Hyderabad, Vijay Rayapati tells you why he thinks Hyderabad is causing heartburn in the statehood issue. "No one in Hyderabad faces an identity crisis. It doesn't matter where you came from, where your roots are. The city doesn't make you feel north Indian or Manipuri or Oriya. And it is not because it grows on you over the years. You become a Hyderabadi as soon as you come here and it gives you a small portion of what you or I always dreamt of. That is Hyderabad, and that is what being a Hyderabadi means," he says. Rayapati came from Ongole in coastal Andhra in 2001 and now works as an 'agent', helping banks process housing and vehicle loans.

Almost everyone who has made Hyderabad their home feels the same. Badminton ace Saina Nehwal came here from Hisar in 1998. "This city has given me my game and name. I am world number 6 now thanks to the city where I was never an outsider. Though I am from Haryana, I am simply a Hyderabadi now. I bought my own home here. You meet people here who don't have any hang-ups about where they come from. It is a great city with its distinct culture, tradition and food, but it is still so cosmopolitan," says Saina.

The city also inspired former chief election commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh to settle in a quiet neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. "It is a nice city, a mixture of the old and new. You cannot choose where you are born but you can certainly choose where you want to settle. After I retired, I chose Hyderabad," says Lyngdoh.

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Everyone has his own reason for being a Hyderabadi. But it's not the core city—old Hyderabad of the Nizams—that they feel a part of. It is the new Hyderabad known as Greater Hyderabad, which has grown in 15 years more than what Hyderabad did in 400 years. While Charminar continues to be the cultural symbol of the city, today Hitec City (Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy), Cyberabad, information technology parks with global giants, skyscrapers with home automation and luxury condos perched in the sky, and the world's largest film studio and a vibrant film industry symbolise today's Hyderabad.

Away from the chaotic traffic and pollution, the city's Gachibowli, Hitec City, Madhapur, and Kondapur areas are a different world altogether. "The entire world is here, isn't it," asks Santosh Arya, a WIPRO employee, out on a cigarette break at the Wipro SEZ. Microsoft is close by, the glass building of Capgemini, a little further.

Over the years, several factors came together to propel Hyderabad's phenomenal growth. The film industry was coming of age, IT investments had begun pouring in, home-grown companies like Satyam Computer Services were attracting talent from across the state and outside, small time contractors and builders were launching themselves as big real estate developers flush with cash, and then there was a government that wanted to convert it into a world-class city.

"Without IT, Hyderabad would have been just a big town with rustic rough edges by virtue of being the state capital. In two decades, IT, which also propelled real estate development, has made it the fastest growing city," says well-known Maoist lawyer K.G. Kannabiran.

In Hyderabad, several things bridge the gap between the old and the new. Hyderabadi cuisine is one of them. Like its city, Hyderabadi Biryani, is a brand now. For music lovers, Hyderabad is the only city in south India where Carnatic and Hindustani classical music are held in equal reverence. When Pandit Jasraj or Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performs at the Chowmahalla Palace, old and new Hyderabad become one. And wherever you live in the city, you are likely to visit its famous pearls bazaar and bangles lane at the foot of Charminar.

"Different people may have different reasons for calling themselves Hyderabadi but it is actually a misnomer. Except for relishing biryani or an occasional visit to Charminar, much of new Hyderabad does not relate to the original city. Only the Muslim population can call themselves truly Hyderabadi," says Dr C. Ramachandraiah, associate professor of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies.

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The Muslim population is still confined to the crowded old city but Hyderabad has grown outwards phenomenally with lakhs of migrants from coastal districts and Rayalaseema settling in areas that have expanded into neighbouring districts like Medak, Ranga Reddy and Nalgonda—an area that is now known as Greater Hyderabad.

"Initially, it was the public sector units which brought these migrants in search of work. Then it was small and medium enterprises and chemical manufacturing units at Pattancheru which lured people from the coast. The largescale migration from coastal areas coincided with the closure of several industries due to pollution. Instead of upgrading their technology, the owners invested in real estate to be developed as residential zones for these migrants. It started with just one or two plots where private builders built 10 flats in the 1980s. The profits from that were used to expand further. Some of the biggest construction firms in Hyderabad started this way," says Dr Ramachandraiah.

"These days we know of software engineers migrating to US or Australia but in the 1980s, four coastal districts—east and west Godvari, Krishna and Guntur—started the US craze with hundreds of doctors, civil and mechanical engineers migrating abroad. Their parents were rich farmers and the dollars they sent back made their way into real estate and commercial development in Hyderabad. In the coastal areas, due to canal-based irrigation, there was not much investment needed in agriculture so agriculture surplus from all the coastal districts was diverted to Hyderabad. Today, the visible face of Hyderabad is actually the new city, the IT companies, and the massive infrastructure development," says an economist at the University of Hyderabad, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing tension over Telangana.

Though there is no supporting data but analysts say approximately Rs 1,00,000 crore has been invested in real estate in the Greater Hyderabad area, which includes 12 municipalities, in the last 12 to 14 years.

A growing Hyderabad has attracted people from all over the country, becoming a melting pot of people and cultures. The total population has now grown to close to 90 lakh—the 2001 Census had put it at 65 lakh but the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) pegs it at 85 lakh in their internal records.

The old city area is dominated by Muslims who make up 30 per cent of Hyderabad's population. Marwaris, who traded in gems and jewellery with the Nizams, started settling here in the 1800s and today about two lakh Marwaris live in the city, running various businesses.

There are roughly one lakh people from Gujarat who primarily trade in clothes, hosiery and jewellery. One of Hyderabad's top ice cream producers, Sri Srinivasa Dairy Products Scoops, is from Gujarat and the P Matka Pub and Bar is owned by a Gujarati. Outside of Gujarat, and after Mumbai, Hyderabad is the only city to host a huge Gujarati Samaj, a Kutchi Gujarati Samaj and a Jain Samaj. Some 1.5 lakh people from Orissa who first migrated from its southern districts like Koraput and Malkangiri to Andhra's coastal districts also now call Hyderabad home. With a significant population from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka, the old city is dotted with Tamil, Oriya and Marathi medium schools.

On the periphery of the city, populations have grown in concentric circles. The lower and middle classes among the migrants—from Krishna, Guntur and East and West Godavari—settled in Dilsukhnagar, Kukatpally and Alwal. The rich settled in Malkajgiri and L.B. Nagar, then grew out towards luxury townships near Ranga Reddy and Medak district borders. Gachibowli, Serilingampally, Bowenpally, Kondapur and Madhapur are areas where expats have invested or settled now. The big guns of the Telugu film industry are cocooned in Banjara Hills and Film Nagar.

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Hyderabad's IT industry registered a spectacular growth since 1998 when the momentum and growth shifted towards IT-related services. "Hyderabad's contribution is 16 to 17 per cent of the country's total exports. Last year the turnover was roughly Rs 32,000 crore," says Narasimha Rao, president of IT and ITES Industry Association of AP.

"The combination of private enterprise and government support in the last 20 years has provided tremendous fillip to the IT industry, which, in turn, led to the rapid development of Hyderabad. Successive governments have provided great infrastructure, the road network is probably one of the finest and largest in any city in the country today. The international airport that came up in three years is the feather in the cap. The city is easy to live and lakhs of IT employees find it comfortable here. There is such a tremendous talent pool in the state and Hyderabad has been able to harness it well," says Rao.

Hyderabad now hosts global giants like Microsoft, Dell, Infosys, Google, IBM, Capgemini, Wipro and TCS. The sprawling Microsoft campus at Gachibowli, the biggest product development centre outside the US, is an indicator of how IT works as the powerhouse of Hyderabad.

The growth of IT boosted the real estate development business here unlike any other city in India. "There was such a tremendous demand for office and residential spaces that developers at one point of time were unable to cope with it. Even today, in spite of all the talk of recession, demand for residential properties is still high," says K.R. Reddy, formerly an analyst with Maytas Properties.

Approximately 12,000 new residential townships or apartments have come up in the last seven years in the peripheral areas. To manage these burgeoning peripheral areas better and boost infrastructure, in April 2007, the state government merged 12 neighbouring municipalities to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. Now it has flyovers, an outer ring road that resembles an endless tarmac and provides quick connection to the city as well as the international airport, and wide roads. On October 19, the 11.6 km-long elevated expressway, the country's longest, made access to the city from the international airport easier and faster.

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If IT powered the city's economic growth, the Telugu film industry or Tollywood as it's popularly called, sits like a halo on Hyderabad, giving it a touch of glamour and money. Tollywood produces the highest number of films in the country. In 2008, 275 films were released and the turnover is estimated to be 45 million US dollars. It is the only film industry where audio release functions of films yet to be released cause stampedes among fans, and unlike any other place, new films hit theatres either on Wednesday evening or Thursday because there are weeks when there are three new releases. Tollywood contributes 1 per cent of the state's GDP. The industry is dominated by people from the coastal districts—from megastar Chiranjeevi to producer director C. Ramoji Rao, who built the world's largest film studio, Ramoji film city, to financiers and distributors. The film industry and its ancillary industry provide at least one lakh jobs; the sprawling Annapurna Studios of former actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao alone provides some 25,000 jobs to technicians, film crew, stuntmen and assistants.

"You can walk into Ramoji film city with a script and walk out with a canned film," says A.R. Rao of Film City. Spread over 2,000 acres, it can take a week to tour the area. There are two luxury hotels inside, honeymoon suites, nature walks, parks and fountains, and of course, film sets. From Swiss meadows to Texas ranches, you have everything here. Lighting arrangements and decorations on the film sets are almost exclusively handled by Hyderabadi Muslims.

Apart from the glamour, there are over 40 central government institutions like the Sardar Vallabhhai Patel National Police Academy, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, National Institute of Rural Development and the National Institute of Nutrition.

Hyderabad's institutions and its IT industry continue to draw people from all over the India and Hyderabad today is like one of its other well-known delicacies, haleem. The more the ingredients and the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.

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